Private security firm G4S is to divest completely from Israel, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement reported yesterday in an announcement billed as a “major win for human rights activism against corporate complicity.” G4S’ parent company, Allied Universal, is said to have sold all its remaining business in apartheid Israel following years of campaigns waged by the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.
G4S suffered serious “reputational damage” and lost lucrative investment contracts because of pro-Palestine activism. Several other human rights campaigns have also targeted G4S over what campaigners have said is the security firm’s “long, violent record of human rights abuses against prisoners, migrants, and other communities worldwide, including the UK, South Africa and the US.”
The BDS campaign against G4S was launched by Palestinian prisoners’ rights and human rights organisations in 2012 to support the major hunger strike waged then by Palestinian political prisoners. This pressure led to high profile divestment from G4S. According to BDS these include the Church of Sweden, the United Methodist Church, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a Kuwaiti investment fund, UN agencies, trade unions, universities, restaurant chains, among others, compelling the company in 2016 to divest from Israel’s prison system, military checkpoints and illegal settlements.
READ: BDS’ effect on Israel
Explaining the reason why G4S divested from Israel, BDS said that the final straw which compelled the parent company Allied Universal to end its complicity in apartheid Israel’s human rights abuses is the strong position taken by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), which manages the funds of the Quebec Pension Plan and other public pension plans. CDPQ became the largest shareholder in Allied Universal in 2019. The Canadian firm supported the company in its bidding for the takeover of G4S. This is said to have been in direct violation of CDPQ’s commitment to ethical and socially responsible investment.
Earlier this month, a Quebec lawmaker reportedly criticised CDPQ’s investment in Allied Universal in a parliamentary committee, saying that “cases of [Israeli] torture against Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are widely documented by human rights organizations.” CDPQ’s CEO replied: “I completely agree with you. This is not the kind of activity we endorse at all.”
Allied Universal did not respond to MEMO’s request for comment.